Blog Post

BSNL's Big $750 MM WiMAX Network Plan

[qi:___wimax] Indian incumbent BSNL plans to spend about $750 million on a nationwide WiMAX network that will primarily target rural areas and small towns and cover a sixth of the country’s ever-growing population. This has to be one of the largest WiMAX rollouts anywhere on the planet.

The funds for the first phase of deployment are coming from a universal service fund set up for broadband access. BSNL will roll out the WiMAX network in large cities later as a separate buildout. The initial network will connect schools and telephony kiosks in villages.

The state-owned incumbent that is often the target of choice four-letter words because of dropped calls to my parents in Delhi has been dabbling with WiMAX for a while now. The announcement comes close on the heels of the Indian government clarifying its 3G policies.

The primary beneficiaries of this new network are going to be local WiMAX gear maker Telsima Networks, Aperto and Cisco-owned Navini Networks. India is fast becoming a big WiMAX testbed. From Intel, Alcatel-Lucent to small startups, all are betting on the WiMAX rollouts promised by incumbents and private sector players such as Reliance and Tata.

Wireless technologies seem to work well in India vs. wired broadband, which is popular in other fast-growing telecom markets such as China. Maybe it is easier and faster to roll out wireless infrastructure and start making money.

22 Responses to “BSNL's Big $750 MM WiMAX Network Plan”

  1. srinivas

    Even BSNL dept people doesnot know about the Wimax broadband. Please make them educated about the facilities (Plans, coverage, availability) available at BSNL.

  2. Country like India needs WIMAX, more then anything else in this world, its a very good fit Technology for a Country like India, where we have the varity of Geo. locations and reaching with Copper to each and all houses and places is not very fisiable thing and that too very costly. WIMAX is a answer to all the Networks related needs and its works very well. Welcomw WIMAX to India in all the ways and since its cheaper to all i.e from operators to end users, WIMAX is a perfect Solutions for our Country.

  3. I tried with Reliance WiMax connection here in Bangalore and they have hell lot of issues to sort. It’s a crappy connection with lot of issues like connections getting lost due to bad weather etc..

    Also I got a call the other day from BSNL asking whether I want to try their new BSNL WiMax connection for which I said “NO” seeing the crappy Reliance service. I will just wait some more time until the service becomes more reliable.

  4. BSNL support leaves much to be desired but their ADSL service is rock stable. Over 2 years, i have needed support just on a couple of occasions. If their Wimax is as stable, i will be queueing up for it.

  5. Om, I somehow disagree with your claims of “the target of choice four-letter words” for BSNL. Yes it used to be, few years back, but now it has improved a lot and some of their services are always better than rest of the private providers (best example is the DataOne). As somebody pointed out, its MTNL in Delhi, but not sure how it differs in strategy and management of networks.

  6. How about BSNL do something to provide good support to existing broadband customers? You wouldn’t be using four-letter words if your BSNL broadband service was down and you had to go through weeks (or even months) without any resolution, despite your attempt to contact them several times on the phone AND in person. You would just be taking a gun to them!

  7. BSNL (despite its govt ownership) has a cadre of dedicated, hard working engineers (I know it sounds weird) – i have had the chance to observe their roll-out of ADSL in an nth-tier market (Kurukshetra, Haryana) and the service has been running with less than 3-5 days downtime in the past 2+ years.

    I also realize today’s technology is easy to ‘roll-out’ vs. the copper infrastructure and strowger switching used to be. Computing massively eases the manual workload and automates many error-prone steps. Witness the 250million subs for mobile phones in India over the past 12 years. Except for the overloading that is frequent and calldrop rates that may be the highest in the world, the infrastructure actually runs pretty well – from e-billing to ‘provisioning’ a new connection in minutes (once the ‘photostat’ stack ‘o documents and IDs are checked).

    Combine these two and you get better than average chances of wi-max’s success in India…


  8. The IEEE 802.16e standardized technology or rather WiMAX deployment in india has been in news way too often now. First with the RF spectrum then with the number of private players permitted and then it was the ISP Association crying foul that DOT permitted only Mobile operators for bidding for the spectrum.

    The spectrum had always remained an issue right from the onset but guess they’ve finally decided to settle with 2.5 GHz to 2.7 GHz as opposed to the initial plans for 3.3-3.4 GHz and 3.4-3.6 Ghz since the said frequency was being used by satellite broadcasters.

    Its also worth mentioning that Intel plans to introduce WiMax compatible chipsets for laptops by the first quarter in the coming year and that Beceem Communications is already producing WiMax compatible mobiles and that some bigger players like Bharti Airtel are gearing up with Moto’s Wi4 end-to-end Networking solution for roll out across all states.

    Besides BSNL states in its official release that it would be connecting to 25,000 schools in over 40,000 villages and would also connect 50,000 Kiosks in the first phase and by 2009 would be offering 100 MBPs connectivity. Watch out Korea!

  9. Om
    “it is easier and faster to rollout wireless infrastructure” is right on target. There are only 40M phone lines for a billion people, so you can’t reach most of the population that way. Instead they are adding incredible numbers of mobile phones, 60M or more this year.

    So wireless is it. The only thing holding back Wimax has been the cost of the receivers, which is finally coming down. That’s why the total number of Wimax connections is low, but likely to grow fast.

    The interesting question is whether WiMax or traditional mobile data wins. CDMA can deliver just about the same performance as WiMax, despite all the WiMax hype. Bharti and others have been beating BSNL, so they may have an edge in the new highspeed wireless data market.
    Very interesting they are funding this out of universal service money. That may bring BSNL back into the game. BSNL is government owned, and the current government has many leftists (even Communists) who back the unions and state control. So it's no surprise the government is tipping towards BSNL, trying to reverse the decline.


  10. I think WiMAX is a very good bet for the Indian market. It has immense potential with a big increase in internet users.

    Its just that promises for WiMAX have been coming for a long time and the government has been very slow dealing with the whole thing!!

  11. It’s still a good news that such an initiative is talked about by BSNL. Tata Indicom is already working towards rolling out WiMAX in all the major cities, including here in Hyderabad, by March/April 2009. No idea what Reliance and Airtel are doing but any plans regarding WiMAX is good news in my book.